It’s been a whirlwind summer so far. I was home only eight days in the month of June, flitting between conferences, conventions, and speaking engagements like a hummingbird zipping from blossom to blossom. As I write this, I’m soon heading home to plant myself in my familiar surroundings and the familiar sounds of birdsong, windchimes, the hum of my own refrigerator, and the heart-stirring voice of my husband near my ear, not coming through the phone.
In talking about the ease or difficulty in presenting a book project to a potential buyer, more than one sales team member said, “If I have to take time to explain what the book’s about, I’ve already lost the sale.” One of the people with whom I spoke referred to my July release—Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices. He said, “The title does all the talking for me. It’s clear what the book’s about and how it relates to the needs of readers.” The sales team member said, “An engaging cover, communicative title, and a snappy, short pitch line make our job so much easier and keep the buyer’s attention. If I have to explain and find myself going on and on to get the point across of how important a book is, I’m looking into glazed eyes and am unlikely to receive a positive response.”
Important lesson for those of us working on describing our future books succinctly, or those of us working on communicative rather than just clever titles or suggesting elements for cover art. It’s an important lesson, too, for those of us in the early stages of creating stories and nonfiction. How long will it take to describe what the book’s about? Or better still, who the book is for and what felt needs it will meet?
As I consider that counsel repeated at these industry events, I’m viewing it from another light, too. Although we have hundreds of pages of stories from the mind and heart of God Himself in His Word, He encapsulated the core of His message in one memorable verse. God loved the world so much that He gave His Son so whoever puts their trust in Him can live forever with Him in a glorious eternity.
Short. Powerful. Life-impacting. Eternity-impacting. Soul-fulfilling. Need-meeting. Family relationships benefit from the “if I have to explain it” advice, too. If I have to explain that I love someone despite my actions, I’ve already lost their attention. If I can’t define my appreciation of that person without tagging on a flood of “in spite of” or “but, you see” or “it’s complicated” explanations, I’ve missed the opportunity to make that person feel truly appreciated.
Resist the urge to explain, we’re counseled as writers. Show what you mean and make it obvious, so no further explanation is necessary, but the reader is intrigued to know more, enticed to open the book or turn another page.
Maybe like me, you’re pondering how many arenas of life that advice affects. When I show the love of God, it should be obvious in me—in my “cover”—so little additional explanation is necessary. When I interact with my family, my words and actions should clearly express what’s on my heart. When I prepare a blurb for a speaking engagement or talk about my books, their storylines or messages should be easy to grasp, distinct enough to hold a prospective reader’s attention, and short enough to bless before the book is even opened.
In what other areas of life do you find that premise true? How do you enforce the idea of making “it” obvious—love, truth, a storyline, a character, your inner character…?
Cynthia Ruchti is the author of six books currently on the shelves, the most recent of which are a novel—When the Morning Glory Blooms—and the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices, both from Abingdon Press. She is a frequent speaker for women’s events and writers’ conferences. You can connect with her and her distinct stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark at www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.facebook.com/cynthiaruchtireaderpage.